Your management team comes to you one day and tasks you with figuring out what your enterprise-wide RFID roll-out strategy needs to look like 1, 3, and 5 years from now and the factors to optimize for in order to make it a core competitive differentiator for your organization.
You’ve read all about RFID, are excited about the potential of the technology (viable and useful technology that can help achieve near term tactical and longer term strategic goals of your organization) but have seen enough minefields (and half-baked success stories) that leaves you in a conundrum, trying to address the following questions:
- How do I cut through all the FUD and get a deeper understanding of the factors to look for in order to successfully deploy an enterprise-wide RFID strategy?
- What do I need to look for in a packaged (hardware + software) product that can address my needs today, and 5 years from now?
Based on learnings and direct feedback from our early adopters, we’ve attempted to capture some of the salient “must design for” factors that we believe will directly impact the probability of your success – irrespective of whether you go with S3Edge or not as your trusted partner for your enterprise-wide RFID solutions.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some answers for the first question,in order to optimize for success in your RFID deployments:
- Device Independence matters New kinds of readers and tags continue to appear, existing products continue to mature, most if not all customers will have a variety of hardware that they will want to choose from. Need a platform that evolves with their needs in a straightforward manner. BizTalk RFID is far and away the leader in this category, the windows device driver like model and the assumptions of scale behind it already have momentum and will continue to build up more momentum as the logo programs and other things kick in. Oracle throwing in the towel here is an example of what the future will be for this category.
- Devices matter At first glance this might be counter to the point above, but RFID devices continue to be ‘cutting edge’ technology. Having deep device expertise is critical to success on an RFID project, a platform like BizTalk RFID does not mean that anyone who can program BizTalk can really build RFID applications. We have made deep and significant investments in understanding, controlling and taking advantage of the device experience, which gives us a sustainable deep competitive advantage in building RFID applications. Along the same lines, we believe that a robust tag placement and readability offering is critical for any RFID solution provider.
- Mobility matters The Microsoft BizTalk RFID Mobile platform (a standalone, yet integral part of the BizTalk RFID server platform) now allows application logic to be executed on device and distribute actions to HH’s / forklifts etc. based on real-time inputs / workflow logic via a rich set of out of box capabilities. These on-device capabilities include connection management, support for online / offline operations, cached storage via SQL CE on device, and web services based integration with multiple end-points for applications that execute on the mobile device. An integral part of any s/w solution package must include mobile apps that are capable of taking advantage of these rich capabilities while perhaps more importantly being able to address the mobile worker use cases like inventory / stock taking out of the box in the context of the business application being deployed.
- People matter RFID offers the promise of unattended, automatic, ubiquitous data collection that should enable unobtrusive operation. We call this the "observational framework", and it is an important cornerstone of any RFID deployment. However, when the framework detects anomalies, for actions to be taken, people have to be involved. This includes surfacing alerts and exceptions where they happen, enabling the staff on the ground to fix problems instead of compounding downstream errors. This is usually human workflow of some sort, either utilizing fixed stations, or more typically, handheld readers and terminals. A robust and scalable human workflow engine is a critical part of any packaged RFID offering. This has to be ‘tailor-able’ for the specific flows at any given site, while still offering leveraged out of the box functionality for connectivity, login, data synchronization, alerts, and exception management.
- Packaging matters BizTalk RFID, like its bigger cousin, BizTalk is an ideal platform for System Integrators given the amount of control and flexibility that is possible. This can lead to solutions with extensive customization. Extensive customization is expensive to specify, implement, deploy, support, and service. The way forward is to leverage this platform in a way that reusable solutions are created, and a cornerstone of that is building "packaged" applications, with their desirable ROI and time to deployment profiles.
I hope you found this useful and valuable – If the above resonates or helps with your efforts around RFID, we’d love to hear from you (send me a note, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Next post: In our next post we will talk to the “The 5 habits of all successful packaged RFID applications”, continuing from where I left off today to address the second question, namely “What do I need to look for in a packaged (hardware + software) product that can address my needs today and 5 years from now?” – stay tuned!
Anush Kumar with Ram Venkatesh